Dry Docked

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USS S-48 Drydocked

S-48 in Dry Dock after grounding

This photo of the S-48 above, was taken on February 8, 1925 after her grounding in Little Harbor, NH. There was damage to the starboard side that resulted in the stern plane being torn from the submarine and the plane guards being twisted. There was extensive hull damage with many plates being caved in as she rolled on the rocks.

There are several other submarines in the dry dock that are unidentified, but one looks to be possibly a Barracuda-class V-boat and at the right another Government design S-boat.

Close up of S-48 damage in Dry Dock

The following is from the Dictionary Of American Naval Fighting Ships:

On the night of January 29, 1925 the S-48 arrived off the New Hampshire coast. At about 18:30, (6:30 PM) the wind picked up and a heavy snowstorm developed. Visibility was reduced to zero. Soon after 19:34, (7:34 PM) the S-boat grounded on rocks off Jeffrey Point; she pulled herself off; then grounded again in Little Harbor.

Messages requesting assistance were dispatched. By midnight, the storm had worsened, seas were coming 'clean over the S-48' and she was rolling 15 degrees to port, 60 degrees to starboard. The violent rolling lasted for only a little over thirty minutes but a heavy list developed.

By 03:30 (3:30 AM) on January 30, the battery compartment was breached and was taking in water. Chlorine gas was forming. The storm continued; but help arrived at 05:00, (5:00 AM) and Coast Guardsmen manning lifeboats rescued the crew. After receiving treatment for exposure and gas at Fort Stark, crew members were transferred to the Navy Base at Kittery, Maine.

On February 1, 1925 salvage operations were begun. A week later, the S-boat was freed and towed to the Portsmouth Navy Yard for repairs. However, the damage was severe and the funds were lacking; and, on July 7, 1925, S-48 was decommissioned. Nearly a year later though, on June 25, 1926, repairs and alterations were authorized and on February 3, 1927, the work began. The object was to try and turn her into a Fleet Submarine, with the cruising range and speed to operate with the surface fleet. But again, a shortage of funds stopped the project.

In 1928, the repair and modernization was carried out. In hopes of improving habitability and increasing her range, her hull was extended 25½ feet; this was done in the forward battery compartment, her displacement was increased to 1165 tons, and her engines were replaced by German M.A.N. types. On December 1, 1928, the work was finally completed. On December 8, almost four years after her accident, S-48 was recommissioned.

The S-48 suffered most of the troubles that all subs at that time suffered. On June 1, 1929 the S-48 was reassigned to SubDiv 4, with which she operated through the end of 1929. Then assigned to SubDiv 3, later SubDiv 5, and then Squadron 3, she continued her operations off the New England coast, with an interruption for winter maneuvers to the south.

She played another notable part in U.S. submarine history. During this time, a young Lieutenant Hyman G. Rickover was assigned to her. He later stated that the S-48 was "faulty, sooty, dangerous and repellent engineering" with this inspiring his obsession for high engineering standards. Rickover would later become the "Father of the Nuclear Navy".

She was transferred to the Panama Canal Zone in 1931. On March 1, 1931 she arrived at Coco Solo whence she operated for four years. In July 1933, she was assigned to the Rotating Reserve; and, in 1935 she was ordered inactivated. On March 20, she departed Coco Solo. On June 1, she arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and, on September 16, 1935, she was decommissioned and berthed at League Island.

Four years later, World War II broke out in Europe. In 1940, S-48 was ordered activated. She was recommissioned on December 10, 1940 but remained at Philadelphia until mid-March 1941. She then moved up to her homeport of New London. As a unit of SubRon 1, she provided services to submarine and antisubmarine warfare training commands at New London and Portland, Maine, until after the end of European hostilities.

Overhaul and repair periods during that time were frequent. In the summer of 1945, the World War I design submarine was finally designated for disposal. On August 21, 1945 she departed New London for the last time. On August 29, she was decommissioned at Philadelphia. On September 17, 1945, her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, and on January 22, 1946 her hulk was sold to the North American Smelting Company in Philadelphia, for scrapping.

Photo In The Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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Ric Hedman & David Johnston
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